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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

C'est si Bon! Travel Tales: Soupe Basque and Porcini Hunting

September 1 - Feast Day of St. Gilles. 
Journeys, Basque Country, High Country, Porcini and Rams

Woke up a bit anxious to walk in the mountains of Colorado with my oldest son, Erick. Will I be able to keep up? Probably not. But there may be Rocky Mountain sheep sighted, as we hunt for porcini, king boletus mushrooms, to pluck from the earth.  

But no matter the speed with which we pursue the day, the day will be a journey. Journeys by nature are uncertain. All and every and any kind whether it be childhood, paths in the mountains or through vineyards, the unknown villages of adulthood, which has so many walks, trundles, scurryings, meanderings, and dartings -if dartings can be a noun for a few minutes- along the edge of the forest of your life. Until you come to a clearing. And then cross into another forest trail.  

Now Erick would likely roll his eyes at such musings, as he is very direct and forthright and doesn't mince words often. He's a chef, so he does lots of other mincing to be sure. He's had his own journeys and meanderings in this life passage we share. 

And what of the journey of the dear Saint for which this day is named? Have you ever heard of a hind? I had not till about oh, maybe a dozen years ago. Hind is the old name for a deer, a female deer. Now the King in Provence so believed in the work of St. Gilles that he sent a hind, to provide the hermit, Gilles, a means to sustain himself in the mountains. But I guess there was a general lack of communication and the King's hunting men spied the hind, drew their arrows and Gilles came out to protect her. Damn if the arrow didn't pierce the Saint's thigh, making him a bit less likely to take the long legged journeys in the mountains that he so enjoyed.

And as for our hike? It was a beautiful day on Shrine Mountain; Erick's backyard and he knows it well. As we sat on a long fallen tree for lunch, two mountain grouse flew overhead. We saw a plethora of mushrooms, its definitely the season. One other lady who was carrying a bulging bag, was picking another variety called Hawkwings. 

It turned out to be not a keeping up kind of hike at all, but more of a climbing walk - talking, stopping and searching for the elusive porcini amongst so many others. he showed me a lean to he had built years ago during another mushroom hunt that came up empty handed. Even if we had found none, it wouldn't have mattered. I was, and I even believe we were both sustained as we trundled through an immense and sacred forest on Shrine Mountain. 

The Journey not the destination. 

I am taking the porcini we found back home to share. So I will post the recipe and dish then. But so as not to leave you hungry the below recipe and tale come from FEAST DAY COOKBOOK by KATHERINE BURTON & HELMUT RIPPERGER, David McKay Company, Inc., New York. 1951

In Spain the shepherds consider Saint Giles the protector of 
rams, and on his feast it was formerly the custom to wash the rams and color their wool a bright shade, tie lighted candles to their horns, and bring the animals down the mountain paths to the chapels and churches to have them blessed.A similar custom prevails among the Basques. On September 1st, the shepherds come down from the Pyrenees, attired in their full costume, sheepskin coats and staves and crooks, to attend Mass with their best rams, in honor of Saint Giles. This is the beginning in the Basque country of a number of autumn festivals, marked by processions and dancing in the fields.

Soupe Basque
We've had a soup such as this as we walked the Camino last year in the Spanish Basque Country.

1/2 lb. dried beans            
2 cups chopped onions       
1 cup pumpkin pieces
1 cup chopped cabbage
1 clove garlic
salt and pepper 
8 cups stock

Soak the beans overnight, then rinse and drain. Brown the onion in a little bacon grease, then add the pumpkin, cabbage, beans, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and add the stock. Simmer for about three hours in a covered soup kettle.

Tree Stumps That Tell Tales

Prize Porcini

View From Shrine Pass

Long Tree For Lunch Table

Erick Leads the Way

An Abundance of Coral Mushrooms 

Odin with a Forest Toothpick
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